ISL: A 'quick freekick' helps Kerala Blasters down Odisha on Ivan Vukomanovic's return

Kerala Blasters head coach Ivan Vukomanovic arrives at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi ahead of Kerala Blasters' ISL match against Odisha FC on Friday. Photo: Kerala Blasters

Kochi: The gods of football have a sense of humour. Ivan Vukomanovic sat out seven months of his career because he staged a walkout in protest of a goal scored from a 'quick freekick'. Today, as he returned to the Kerala Blasters dugout having served the 10-game ban imposed on him by the AIFF disciplinary committee, another goal from a 'quick freekick' proved a game-changer.

That goal scored in the 66th minute by substitute Dimitrios Diamantakos prompted a turnaround in the Indian Super League contest between Kerala Blasters and Odisha FC and the former, spurred on by its enviable home support, went on to win 2-1.

Captain Adrian Luna curled in the winner on 84 minutes as Odisha goalkeeper Amrinder Singh looked hapless, much like Prabhsukhan Gill had stood in the Kerala goal when Sunil Chhetri netted Bengaluru FC's contentious freekick goal on March 3rd that provoked Vukomanovic to initiate an unprecedented walkout in the ISL.

For Luna, who had stood dumbstruck when Chhetri scored that controversial goal last season, this game was deliverance. It was he who took the quick freekick tonight. From out wide, the Spaniard released Daisuke Sakai, who found Diamantakos and the Greek finished under pressure to equalise.

Odisha players protested, much like the Blasters had seven months ago, arguing the freekick was too quick. But the referee was 'crystal' clear. Nothing wrong. Credit to Odisha, they played on.

Kerala Blasters' captain Adrian Luna in action against Odisha FC in the Indian Super League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. Photo: ISL

But by then, the reality that Odisha had scored as early as in the 15th minute through Diego Mauricio and wasted a penalty shortly afterwards was long forgotten.

Goalkeeper Sachin Suresh had saved the spot kick from Mauricio and the rebound from Isak Vanlalruatfela to keep the Blasters in the game, one which they had dominated and felt deserving of for the most part.

Rahul KP, who had returned to the starting XI for the first time this season, could have made tonight about him had he not flashed over from a Naocha pull back before Mauricio scored. He eventually made way for Diamantakos and the game-changing moment.

Earlier, a seven-month wait of the Blasters' faithful ended when Vukomanovic returned to the dugout. He hogged the limelight almost instantly as he greeted the Blasters fans for the first time and received much love in return.

Unlike in the past when he stepped onto the turf, much in advance of kickoff, to greet the fans, Vukomanovic had delayed his re-entry tonight, not showing face until after the players had entered. But with the game won and with such drama, he was last to leave the field of play, basking in the glory, reciprocating the thunderous Viking claps from the home support.  

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